On Feeling Dysregulated

I was reading this article from The Cut recently, an essay on dysregulation and how the word is suddenly appearing everywhere. It goes on to describe that dysregulation, at it’s core, seems to be about some sort of traumatic event happening (of any nature) that has you not feeling like yourself, and wanting to get back to feeling like you again. And for me, right now, that feels pretty appropriate.

For as much as I go about my day-to-day life as “normal” right now, it feels like there’s so much going on just below the surface. I have my unexpected hospitalization last month, and follow-up (and anxiety!) from that – all is well right now, but any time I’m in the hospital, it takes my body a little bit of time to bounce back. There’s the fact that nationwide, we’re facing a crisis in personal care attendants (the people who are paid to help me do the daily tasks I can’t do alone), which means that my family and I are pushed to our limits every single week as we coordinate a complicated schedule and set of logistics so that everyone gets where they need to be, when they need to be there. There’s normal disability-related work (scheduling appointments, refilling medications, making sure I’m getting the calories I need) that needs to get done but can feel like a job, plus my actual job and my blog job! And then there’s the fact that we just hit the four year anniversary of COVID, when my life drastically changed.

People always say that the body remembers things, and for me and COVID, I think that’s extremely true. I am not consciously thinking about March 2020, but I think that my body absolutely remembers – the absolute grip of anxiety that COVID had on me for months. The uncertainty of whether or not I was being too risky by letting my personal care attendant into my house, the fear of what would happen to me if I got sick, and if I’d even survive, and the constant devaluation of my life in the rhetoric around COVID; the fact that my life was considered disposable so that others could return to “normal” sooner.

I always feel a little strange to even talk about COVID now, because I’m still living in a different reality than most of the world. COVID is still a concern for me! I still have to make risk calculations and worry about exposures, because getting COVID could land me in the hospital again, and I really would like to avoid that. And it’s hard to think about COVID without thinking about the drastic way that my life has changed since March 2020, and the things that I’ve lost since then. While there have been some definite upsides (working from home being a huge one of them for me), there have been some major losses, too. And I think most of all, I’ve now permanently lost some of my carefree-ness – now, when I go out to dinner or to see a show or go to a concert, there’s a tinge of anxiety around COVID risk amidst the excitement that never used to be there. It’s simply my new reality. And while I’ve largely adjusted to this, every March, my body remembers and notes the change that occurred, even if my mind doesn’t consciously focus on it.

Going back to the article in The Cut, it ends on this note:

“There is a kind of longing in dysregulation. People were struggling not to change, but to recapture an idea of who they’d been before.You may be a wreck on a hair trigger now, but that isn’t at the core of who you are. I am dysregulating, I thought, and was struck by the perverse optimism of it. I was a mess, but there was hope.”

Like Taylor Swift says in All Too Well (Taylor’s Version) “I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it.” It might take time, but March will pass. My body will recover, and my mind will slowly calm. I might be dysregulating right now, but there is hope.

Leave a Reply